Good news on the doping front (when have we heard that, lately?). It appears
that the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), organizers of the Amgen Tour of
California(AToC) have teamed with USA Cycling and the United States Anti-Doping
Agency(USADA) to bring tight doping controls to the 2008 AToC. The controls
appear to be a manifestation of the "biological passport" adopted by the World
Anti-Doping Agency(WADA) at its recent summit in Madrid.
Briefly, the biological passport is a history of an athlete's drug testing and
biological parameters (haematocrit, testosterone levels, etc.) which will be
used to set a baseline physiology and also record of when he/she has been
tested to determine if an athlete is within those parameters or taking performance
enhancing drugs(ped's). Interestingly enough, during an interview I conducted
with then-USADA chief, Frank Shorter, way back in 2001, this exact subject came
up and Frank, the 1972 Olympic Gold Medalist in the marathon, was a huge
proponent of a testing passport.
One of the things I vowed to do with this blog was to keep the frequency of my
postings on doping to a minimum. To be sure, we need to have a dialog about
this subject because it seems, right now, to be plaguing our sport. But there
are so many other interesting things to talk about. But, this recent development
is pretty darn big.
AToC race director, Jim Birrell, told me that in 2006 the total cost of dope
testing at the race was $2300. This year, according to the agreement, over
$100,000 will be spent in an attempt to insure a clean race. That's some
major coin and it represents, IMHO, a very serious and aggressive attempt to
re-instill the confidence in the fans of the sport that the riders are, indeed,
exceptionally gifted athlete's with a burning desire to be first across the
Will money, which means increased frequency of testing and more tests, solve
the problem? After last year's Tour de France, I sent a proposal to the race
organizers to help restore credibility to their event. I proposed that they
include a new procedure during the time trials that as each rider crosses the
finish line, they are escorted to doping control to give blood and urine.
Unlike the road stages, where bunch finishes are common, in the time trials,
each rider crosses the line at about 1-2 minute intervals. With four or five
teams of sample takers each rider could be serviced in a prompt manner and
then sent on to their team bus.
However, proposals such as mine take major benjamins. But, if the sport is
going to survive, maybe that is the only solution. Some of the major
professional teams such as Slipstream/Chipotle, High Road Sports and CSC have
invested beacoup bucks to test their riders, out-of-competition. Maybe it is
time for the other pro teams and also the UCI to follow suit and increase their
Whadda you all think?
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